George Fellowes Prynne

 

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HORRABRIDGE Devon
St. John the Baptist*

This is probably the finest example of a smaller scale church by George Fellowes Prynne.

The postcard illustrated (posted in October 1907) shows the external view of Horrabridge church from the south side. The walls are of local stone, and the roof is of pitch pine. Notice how low the roof reaches over the south transepts, and also how much of the wall area is occupied by windows. These two factors combine to give the overall impression of balance, and help make the exterior attractive, avoiding the starkness sometimes seen in Fellowes Prynne’s church exteriors. The outside has changed a little since this postcard was published; the fleche now has a clock set into its base, and the west end has a porch, as designed by Fellowes Prynne, but built later.

Inside, the church contains many of his usual design features, but the most noticeable thing is the feeling of intimacy. There are wide arches at the chancel and along the nave. The width of these arches has the effect of diverting attention from the loftiness of the building. The arches are faced in Bath stone, which is also the stone from which the pillars are constructed. Unusually, there is no chancel wall or screen, but instead a decorated rood beam housing an elaborate painted cross. The roof is of the architect’s usual wooden barrel roof construction, and it is decorated at the entrance to the chancel, above the rood beam. Like all the arches, the roof traces a much flatter curve in cross-section than Fellowes Prynne’s larger churches, making the roof actually lower than would otherwise be expected.

The Furniture is to Fellowes Prynne’s design, with the exception of the post-war reredos and riddels. The Exeter firm of Harry Hems was responsible for carving the font and the rood beam, and Northcott’s of Ashwater carved the altar rails, choir stalls and vestry screen. The seating is, perhaps surprisingly given his views on the subject, pews rather than chairs, but it has to be said that these are attractive and eminently suitable for a church of this scale.

The pulpit is of wrought iron with a brass and wood top. It is extremely delicate in its style, with not only intricate ironwork top and bottom, but, unusually, spaces where there is no ironwork. Most of Fellowes Prynne’s designs in this field give the impression that unfilled space is an aberration; Horrabridge church pulpit shows otherwise, and to great effect. The plinth is simplicity itself, a round, thick, single pillar with notched edging at the top, bevelling beneath that, and a hint of vaulting to provide support. The lack of extravagance here again adds to the overall sense of a village church.

We are told in the Church Review (7 December 1893) that, at lunch after the consecration

“…the architect…was deservedly praised for the beautiful building he had designed, and in reply said his aim was always to do work to the Glory of God.”